You should start thinking like a Captain if you want to be invited on a dive boat.
When I first started diving, it took at least six months before I felt confident enough to go on a boat dive. Once on a boat, it didn’t take long to hear Captains venting about why they’re particular with who they invite on deck.
Boats are one of the worst investments known to man.
Therefore, if you’re invited on a boat, you must empathize with the Captain and do everything in your power to make their life easier with you around. That’s why I feel inclined to share the questions a Captain is likely thinking to judge you on before extending you an invite on their boat.
I hope these questions steer you in the right direction so you can guarantee an invite back for another dive.
1. Have we previously dove together?
The easiest way to build credibility with a boat owner is to dive with them.
For example, long before I was invited on my buddy Bret’s boat, I dove with him down in Baja during a trip my friend set up. This trip took the pressure off the engagement since we had a hired captain taking care of us so we could focus on diving and sharing the stoke. Another option is inviting the boat owner on a shore dive. You’re likely to get invited on their boat if you spend time in the water with them.
Therefore, if you’re struggling to get on a boat – make a list of people who have boats and find creative ways to dive with them first.
2. The House Test – Are you trustworthy enough to crash on the couch?
If you aren’t respectful enough to meet the family and crash on the couch, don’t expect to get invited on the boat.
You likely have that friend you love hanging out with as long as it’s not at your place. Therefore, look in the mirror and see if a responsible person looks back at you. A reliable and courteous person is expected when boarding a boat. Just like you wouldn’t leave your dirty boxers on the floor in someone else’s house, have the same respect for the Captain’s boat.
If you’re not getting invited on boats, maybe you need to clean up your act and demonstrate a level of responsibility that screams you’re ready to be a First Mate.
3. Are you freediver certified?
Being certified doesn’t make you an all-star diver, but it does give a sense that you’re serious about improving your abilities.
Having gone through FII level 1, I can tell you it’s not the most effortless weekend to pass. First, you must sit through mind-numbing half-day lectures, then head to a pool to do drills. Follow that up with the second day of being dehydrated and testing yourselves in the open ocean.
Am I a better diver for having completed it? Yes.
But more importantly, it shows others that you’ve undergone standardized diver safety training. This will build some credibility and confidence in your ability outside of just your word.
The course will also help you meet new people to dive with and expand your circle (one might just have a boat).
4. Do you get seasick easily?
I wouldn’t wish seasickness on my worst enemy.
When I was younger, I never got seasick. Now that I’m in my 30s, I have dealt with it multiple times, and it’s the fastest way to ruin a dive trip. It’s your responsibility to prevent seasickness as much as possible. For example, I recently went on a dive trip with my buddy and didn’t sleep well the night before. Knowing that poor sleep leads to increased seasickness, I should have taken Dramamine. I didn’t and proceeded to throw up six times during my dive, having to cut it short after an hour.
Thankfully, I’m super close with the buddy who took me out that day, but I know my boat cred took a hit. If that happened on your first outing – you might not get invited back.
5. Are you going to hold up the fun?
You’re late if you’re not at least 15 minutes early to the boat launch.
Boat captains spend hours, if not days, preparing the boat for an outing. I never understood how much effort it takes to prep for a boating day until I got my first boat. Every little worry plays in your mind. It’s almost like you develop obsessive-compulsive disorder to ensure you don’t forget something that could damage your baby. Now imagine everything went right, and the Captain is ready to launch and capitalize on that hard work, only to get a call, “Hey man, sorry I’m going to be 30 minutes late.”
The amount of work you have to do verse the Captain is magnitudes different. Just show up on time. Worst case – if you will be late, let the Captain know as soon as possible and give them a play-by-play until you reach the dock to remove any uncertainty.
6. Are you a hazard for the type of fish we’re targeting?
Be transparent with your skill level, so you’re not a hazard.
Chasing tuna is vastly different than hunting reef fish. Don’t just assume you know what to do because you watched a few YouTube videos on the topic.
No amount of reading or watching will replace experience.
For example, the first time I chased tuna, I was shocked at how much time was spent just burning fuel and looking into the abyss for the random bird. But when we marked tuna, it went from 0-100 real quick, and the intricate dance began. One guy maned the boat, the other got the float ready, and the diver breathed up and jumped out of a moving boat. All for one shot. For the entire day.
Don’t try and make a tuna dive your first boat dive. Play in the reef first. Use this time to focus on learning about boating more than spearfishing.
7. Are you a quick learner?
Strive to learn the absolute basics of boating before heading on a boat.
The Captain should cut you some slack as long as you’re humble and upfront with what you know. However, there are simple basics that you can learn before stepping aboard that will make you look competent. The first is knowing that boats have fenders and they’re important for preventing damage at the dock. Next, you’ll want to learn how to tie off a boat, which means watching a few knot videos on YouTube and practicing at home. Lastly, remember to schedule ample time to help wash the boat, so you leave it better than you found it.
It’s the simple things that get noticed. If you treat the boat like it’s yours, the Captain will respect you for it.
8. Are you a party animal?
I’m not going to pretend I haven’t been that guy before.
Sometimes you have a dive trip planned, and life gets in the way. Dinner with friends turns into an unexpected late night, only to realize you have a few hours to nap and head to the dock. After it happens once (ok, maybe a few times), you have to be better at planning. Now I no longer schedule boat dives near dinners that can get out of control. What’s tougher lately is dealing with my newborn’s late-night fussiness. Whatever life throws at you, it’s on you to find a solution to not make it a problem.
Selfishness is caring about yourself more than a successful dive with the group. It doesn’t take many for you to tarnish your credibility.
9. How’s your diving reputation?
The community is small, and word travels fast. Do what you can to keep a solid dive reputation.
Everyone has an opinion, and the sooner you stop caring about what others think about you, the better. However, opinions still matter if you’re relying on other people. Since we’re social creatures and diving is a team sport, it’s best to keep your reputation in favor of those you respect (and have boats).
Being a nice person will take you far.
Being helpful and considerate will take you further.
Shooting nice fish and not being a dick will take you to the boating promise land.
Finally, know that going on someone’s boat is a two-way transaction. They expect you to help with the boat, provide a few snacks or drinks, but ultimately help them have a fun time on the water.
But don’t take my word for it. Go reach out to a few boat captains and get their input!